Bass, drums and sax are a trio. JOY ON FIRE, however, is a triomassive — an insurgent kaleidoscope of sound greater than many multiples of its parts. Referencing the most daring jazz-rock fusionists in modern history, the band performs a blistering spectrum of instrumentals best described as “fuzz-jazz” or “Zeppelin-meets-Coltrane.”
JOY ON FIRE (JoF) originally formed in 2009 in Baltimore, MD, under the name SuperSharpShooter and, as such, became a force in Charm City’s roiling avant-garde music scene. (The name change was encouraged by John Zorn and JoF manager Corinna Makris — it’s a long story for another day.)
Now based in Greensboro, NC, JoF travels the East Coast melting faces with its adventurous self-titled debut CD, which — akin to some of the more groundbreaking albums of the 60s and 70s like Yes’s Relayer — features three big songs: “The Complete Book of Bonsai,” “The Marriage of Hell and Heaven” and “If 3 Was 8” (the title a tribute to Jimi Hendrix’s “If 6 Was 9”).
Core members Anna Meadors (saxes) and John Paul Carillo (bass/guitar) remain, augmented by drummer/percussionist Chris Olsen.
Anna plays alto, soprano and, her current favorite, baritone sax, at times switching horns mid-song, changing textures to fit the morphing moods of JOY ON FIRE’s often multi-themed, multi-movement compositions. She’s a passionate soloist on all three instruments — and the baritone, much like Dana Colley’s sax in Morphine, is a real riff machine, a tugboat of a horn that can push the rest of the group’s big sound around and around and around.
John switches from bass to guitar and, when he does play bass, he plays in a guitar style, with lots of chords and single-note riffs hooked between. Adding wah-wah, distortion, delay and other effects, John’s bass covers the additional ground of rhythm guitar and keyboards, launching UFOs into the sky while digging deeply into the dark soil of the groove.
Chris’s drumming swings from rock to jazz to somewhere completely distant from the two, and adds a savory element of organic abandon informed by his immersion in NY’s avant-jazz world. He adds percussion to the recipe in the form of various frame drums, silkscreen and many found, homemade and modified instruments.
Never comfortable at rest, JOY ON FIRE is preparing its follow-up album, tentatively called On Fire, featuring “Le Phant,” “The Spider’s House” (from Paul Bowles’s novel of the same name), “Double Dub,” “Hey, Hey” and “The Complete Book of Bonsai, Part Two” (paradox intended!).
Doors 9:30 | Music 10 pm. 21 and up